A few weeks ago I received a letter from my alma mater, Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. They are in the process of compiling a publication called “Heart of Grace,” in which graduates of the art department share their thoughts on art for the sake of future graduates.
The theme was straightforward: “What Art Means to Me.” Below is my submission:
What Art Means to Me
It’s an exciting time to be a Christian and an artist. The world values creativity. Even the Church values creativity and the use of the arts. Yes, there was kicking and screaming on the Church’s part to reach this point, and they’re still not exactly sure how to implement your abilities and passions. But they want to.
I planned on being a mathematician. But halfway through my freshman year at Grace College, I realized that despite my natural math skills, this wasn’t my passion. I was also good at drawing and had a creative bent. I told myself, “Now art, there’s a career!” I signed up for Drawing 101 and, at the completion of the course, changed my major to art. I never looked back.
Since then I’ve been on a journey of merging my art and my faith. Honestly, there isn’t a defined blueprint for doing this. To those graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, and fine artists who love our Lord and seek to glorify Him through all things, be aware: you’re not a “Christian artist.” You’re an artistic Christian. Note the difference. Note what is most important. Yes, you need to be passionate about your art. But you need to be passionate about Christ even more.
When we look at the mission of the church, we have to look at the Apostle Paul. Do you remember the name of the artist he took with him on his missionary journeys? You don’t? That’s right you don’t because he did no such thing. I seek to understand the role of my art within the mission of the church. I’m a voice to today’s culture and my deepest convictions have no choice but to shine through my creations. However, my meaningful creation is not going to win souls for Christ. No, really. It’s not. But that does not mean it’s without kingdom value. Rookmaaker, in “Modern Art and the Death of a Culture” (which is essential reading), said the following:
“But where [things] have been spoilt or warped by sin, then the Christian must show by his life, his words, his action, his creativity what God really intended them to be [...] He has been given the power of God Himself by the Holy Spirit, who will help him to work out his new life into the world around him. He is the ‘salt of the earth’, keeping society from corruption, and giving savour to every aspect of life.”
My creativity must go hand in hand with my words, actions, and interactions. I need to be involved in people’s lives. We artists tend to isolate ourselves and get lost in our work. Don’t isolate. Collaborate. Make connections. I desire to make my art and my processes about something more than just me. May I not let my heart for art exceed my heart for people.